AHEAD of his Red Noise show at the Ardhowen Theatre this weekend, award-winning comedian, writer and actor Owen O’Neill fondly recalls his first trip to Fermanagh’s county town.
I think 2002 was my first time in Enniskillen. I was doing a gig in Blakes of the Hollow. I had driven from Belfast City Airport and was looking for the Bed and Breakfast where I would be staying for the Weekend. As I turned the corner into the leafy avenue I thought I saw a pile of clothes in the middle of the road, then the clothes moved and I realised it was a person. I parked up and went to investigate. The man was in his seventies. He was just lying on his back looking up at the sky. I asked him if he was alright?
He said, in his strong Fermanagh accent, ‘Oh no bother boy, luck at that! Tick a luck at that’ and he pointed to the sky. ‘Cumulus Stratus! that’s wan aff my favert clouds so it is’ I looked up to the sky and not being a connoisseur of clouds I wasn’t sure what I was looking at. Then he suddenly jumped up grabbed me by the arm stared into my face and said ‘Are you any relation to Ginger Connolly the boy who sowl all the wellingtons and then ran aff ta Belfast with all the money? He was a quare hallion that fellah’ I told him I didn’t think I had any realitives called Connolly. His grip tightened on my arm and he said. ‘The Connolly’s all had ginger hair they were a bad lot! What line a work are ye in yerself boy?’ I hesitated for a moment and thought I might not tell him I was a comedian. I thought about telling him I was a plumber or something normal, but I told him the truth. ‘I’m a comedian’ I said. His face darkened and he glared at me. ‘Do ye see this place yer in now..Enniskillen! This place is full a comedians. So you’ll have yer work cut out for ye! Let me give ye a bit of advice son. Never let the arse hang out of yer trousers, buy yer own drink and don’t have anything to do with weemen. Weemen only want to scowld ye. De ye hear me now? And keep luckin at the sky the answers are all up there. Good man’ And then he ran off down the road like a ten year old.
This was the first person I encountered in Enniskillen and it enhanced my perception of the place. Every time anyone mentions Enniskillen I smile and immediately think of the old man I met in 2002.
I’ve visited a few times since, but have never seen the old man again. He may have been some kind of mystic visionary, or maybe he was just the local MP, who knows?
Last time I was in Enniskillen was six weeks ago. I was given a guided tour by none other than Charlie Lawson (Jim McDonald, Coronation Street) It was for a series on Radio Ulster called ‘The town I loved so well’ which you can hear on Saturday mornings at 10.30. Charlie wasn’t as eccentric as the old man but not far off. He was great company and we spent the day laughing, which is always good.
I’m hoping all the eccentrics in Enniskillen come and see my show at the Ardowen on the 29th July and we can all spend the evening laughing……I have many tales to tell, and remember….Keep looking at the the sky.
Ardowen, July 29